Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Competition to Counter Gang Violence

In an effort to halt gang violence associated with Martial Arts Groups (MAGs) in East Timor, leaders are supporting the idea of hosting a National Marital Arts competition. Thousands of young men belong to MAGs, and while many are entirely peaceful organizations, some are continuously linked with illegal behavior and violence.

"Lack of education, unemployment and family issues are the key factors leading these young people to fight," said Kamis Miguel Mendonca, Head of Community Policing in Baucau, East Timor. He believes that many turn to MAGs as a way to vent their frustrations associated with limited economic opportunities.

Instead of trying to combat the formation of MAGs, a new proposal is to host a National Martial Arts competition, an approach that has the potential to legitimize and support the young men joining MAGs, instead of alienating them. "It would provide an outlet for these groups," said Egidio Alixo Soares, the Baucau Coordinator for a MAG."Members train around three times a week and at the moment the only way to express their skills and training is through street fighting. A national competition would bring MAGs into the mainstream and celebrate Martial Arts as a sport."

-Devynn Patterson